Character Defects: An Overview

Usually when I am moved to write about a topic, it is because it has been a recurring theme in my life.  At the last several meetings I attended, the topic of character defects has come up, and I have been avoiding writing about it, mainly because I don’t feel I know enough about the subject to be any kind of authority.  And yet, it keeps coming back up, so I think I must make this attempt.  This subject could be covered in multiple posts, so for the time being I will take a broad, overview approach in describing the subject matter.

First, to explain a little about the term, character defects are a major player in the 12 steps of recovery.  In steps 4 through 7, you examine what your character defects are, you admit them out loud to another person, you become ready to have them removed, and then you ask God to remove them… that is the short-hand version of these steps.

So how do I figure out what my character defects are?  In the AA literature I have read, you can look at the most universally regarded list of character defects… the 7 deadly sins… and figure out how they apply to your own life.  And that may work, I’ll have to actually make my “searching and fearless moral inventory” (step 4) before I can judge if this is effective.

At this stage of recovery, what makes most sense to me in defining my character defects is to figure out what I have done wrong most glaringly and most often.  From that list of faults, I imagine a pattern will emerge of why I am making the same mistakes, and the why’s will be my character defects.

For people like me, who tend to get mired in all the wrongs they have done, and have a difficult time seeing what they have done right in their lives, it is also important to see character defects as a spectrum.  And, like any spectrum, there are degrees of dark and light.  Taking the deadly sin of pride as an example, pride is on one end of the spectrum, humility is at the other, and at any given point you could be on either end of that spectrum.  So for every time I have shown resentment to another person, there has been a time I have shown kindness.  For every liability I have within me, there is an asset I need to acknowledge and cultivate.  In keeping this big picture mentality while looking at character defects, I believe I will be most effective at eliminating the negative traits, and cultivating the positive attributes in my life.


Posted on April 21, 2012, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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